Mirele Efros (The Jewish Queen Lear)

Translated from the Yiddish Mirele Efros (1893 ) by Jacob Gordin.

Mirele Efros is a tale of power and pride.  Mirele pounds her walking stick imperiously on the floor as she battles her daughter-in-law for control of the two worlds she built, her household and her business, and that she  intends to keep. Gordin, one of whose political causes was women’s rights, takes as his central figure a woman who struggles, falls, and rises wiser than before.

The play was created by the author as a vehicle for one actress; when another star with her own following first attempted the title role, the Yiddish public was riveted by this battle of titans, and newspapers published reviews and even cartoons commenting on the dueling prima donnas.  Yiddish actresses continue to measure themselves in the role, as recently as 1967 (Warsaw and New York), 1996 (Montreal), 2003 (Tel Aviv) and 2009 (Bucharest). The 1938 film is a classic and still screened. Mirele Efros has been performed in Russian, Ukrainian, Hungarian, German, Spanish, Italian, and Hebrew.

The critic J. Hoberman, in his book Bridges of Light: Yiddish Film between Two Worlds, calls Mirele Efros “Gordin’s masterpiece” and “likely the single most widely played piece in the Yiddish theatrical canon.”

The translation was subsidized in part by a PEN nominated grant from New York State Council for the Arts.

Contact Nahma Sandrow for script and performance permission.